Interview with Maureen Wittmann, Part 7

Adrienne: One last question for you. How did you get into writing about homeschooling?

Maureen: It just kind of happened.

As a kid, I wanted to be an investigative reporter. However, I was told by more than one school counselor to get my head out of the clouds and get real. They never read anything I’d written – that didn’t matter. What mattered to them was that there were more graduates with journalism degrees than there were jobs. My career took a completely different route and writing got sidetracked.

(As a side note: Four years ago I started a teen writing club for this reason. The club is designed to help high school students who want to make writing their life’s work. I believe in encouraging children to explore their dreams and to strive for excellence.)

In the 80’s I volunteered to publish a bimonthly newsletter for a nonprofit organization. My only qualification was that I owned a home computer – not very common in those days. I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely.

When I started formal homeschooling, I began to think about how I could apply my desktop publishing experience and my writing skills to help the homeschooling community. I asked my friend Rachel Mackson if she would like to publish a homeschool newsletter with me. Rachel very wisely pointed out that a newsletter requires a regular commitment. With small children there would always be the possibility of a wrench thrown into our publishing schedule. Rachel suggested writing a book together instead as it would be a one-time commitment.

There was one problem. Being new to homeschooling, I was uncomfortable telling other parents how to homeschool. I suggested we put together a compendium instead. It was a perfect match. Rachel set to work recruiting friends to write for us, while I worked at editing. At first, we self-published A Catholic Homeschool Treasury. It was a lot of hard work that bore few fruits. When Ignatius Press picked up the book we were ecstatic!

However, putting together a book isn’t even half the work. An author must work hard to promote her book if anyone is going to read it. One way to do that is to get speaking engagements. I humbled myself and wrote to organizers to ask if I could speak at their conferences. Another way to market your book is to get articles published in periodicals popular with your reading audience. I began sending queries to various homeschooling and Catholic magazines. It wasn’t long before I was getting published.

It’s been nine years since that first book went to print and, I have to say, writing for the homeschool market has been a great blessing. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with other writers and editors, to meet homeschoolers from all over the country, and to learn a great deal about my vocation as a homeschooling mother.

Adrienne: Before I let you go, would you like to tell us a little about your forthcoming book? I, for one, am very excited about it.

Maureen: I’m excited too! For the Love of Literature is many years in the making and I’m so happy to have it with the publisher. (It’ll still be a few months before it’s available.) It’s a book designed to help parents use literature in their homeschools. Though it could be used by any homeschooling parent, it does have a Catholic ethos to it since I’m Catholic.

When I began homeschooling, I decided early on to concentrate heavily on real books, using textbooks and workbooks only as supplemental material. Over the years, I kept track of the books I used, making notes on what worked and what didn’t. It wasn’t long before I had a pretty extensive reading list.

I pulled the list together into a booklet to accompany a conference talk I give on teaching core subjects through literature. I was surprised how popular the booklet became even though I didn’t promote it. I gave one to my friend, and writing mentor, Mike Aquilina and he encouraged me to pull it into a full blown book. (Mike wrote the Foreword.) Then Joan Stromberg, Ecce Homo publisher, approached me at a conference and suggested I write it for Ecce Homo. How could I resist?

The reading list in For the Love of Literature contains just over 950 books. Each book has a short description and is coded for reading level. The books are broken down by subject matter (music, art, science, math, and history). I tried to arrange the list so it would be easy to use by a parent teaching children of all ages.

I include chapters on using the library (your favorite chapter Adrienne!), the art of reading aloud, classical education, Charlotte Mason, literary unit studies, and more.

It’s my hope that homeschoolers will take my book and make it their book. I hope they will continue to write the book long after the publisher has put it into their hands. They should highlight the titles already on their bookshelves, make notes next to favorites, red line titles they don’t like, and write in new titles.

The making of this book has been a labor of love and it is my gift to the homeschooling community.

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